Mouthings- question for Stefan

Antony Daamen adaamen at OPTUSNET.COM.AU
Tue Aug 19 04:05:54 UTC 2003

HI Ingvild and Stefan,

I have been with this site for a while and I would like to add my 2-bobs

Here in Australia we have Auslan (Australian Sign Language).  This is the
language that the Deaf use, when they are among themselves and that is their
natural language.  Often the signs, don's have an English equivalent.  The
natural sign language of the Deaf is often conceptual, not a word for word
translation of the host language. Host being the language of the hearing
majority in the area where the Deaf live. 

To prove the point, the ASL (American Sign Language) uses a one handed
alphabet and the Auslan uses two handed, eventhough the host language is
both a form of English! Incidently the BSL (British Sign Language) is the 
ancestor' of Auslan and FSL(Frensch Sign Language) the ancestor of ASL. 
However all these languages are distinctly different from one another.  The
FSL and ASL are related, but the host language is different!! 

No this proves a problem for Stefan.  As the signs of the FSL and the ASL
are similar for similar things (eg chair), but the spoken word is different.

The point is that for the Deaf person that has never heard a word, the
mouthing is a waste of time.  a case in point:  my wife is profoundly Deaf,
but is an excellent lipreader. however, she is very very frustrated by
people mouthing the words and signing at the same time!  She can't watch
both the mouth and the hands at the same time and this only confuses the

Also hearing people that try to be helpful by using the now old-fashioned 
Total Communication' well know that if they try to speak and sign at the
same time, either the signing becomes more like the spoken language
grammatically and signs are left out, or the spoken words become more like
the signs grammatically and there will be words left out.....

Sadly over the last 200years there has been alot of oppression of the Deaf
and their language (Read any book of Harlan Lane, and you will see what I

before this time, there were Deaf boarding schools, with Deaf teachers that
used the native Sign Language to educate the Deaf. The education of the Deaf
was very good. This was 'The Golden Age' of the Deaf.  They were able to
reach there potential, held jobs, were respected in society. 

Sadly, Germany, Italy and to a lesser degree England all were in favour of
the Oral method.  While the Deaf schools focussed on giving
information/education, the oral method focussed on speech and then the
information/deucation through there faulty ears....  This has proven to be a
disaster for the Deaf.

It has been proven that people don't learn a language they acquire (hope i
spelled this right) a language.  so the more they hear a language, the
better their speech clarity and vocabulairy will be...  So students that are
hard or hearing became the 'succes stories' and the true (profoundly) Deaf,
became the 'failures'.  I am sure that Stefan is able to supply profoundly
Deaf people that can speak, however these are deifinitly in the minority.

 The 'Black Day' in Deaf history was the Milan Convention in 1880.  It was
then that the educators of the day decided that oralism would be the way of
the future.  Sadly with this, the future of the Deaf was doomed.  

Focussing on speech,then education through speech was the way these
educators would teach the Deaf....   German and Italian educators were at
the forefront of this idea....

children were being caned, had to sit on their hands, anything to stop them
from signing... It was thought that if they signed they would not be using
their ears and mouth... again Germany, Italy (and Holland, where I come
from) were the most fanatical...

After 120 years of this oppression of their language it is amazingthe sign
Language survived at all...

However, after the war there was a blooming of oralism. It was thought that
if we can find a hearing aid strong enough and a speach therapist persistant
enough, the majority of Deaf would be 'normal' (=hearing). 

After 10-20 or whatever years they realised this doesn't work.  So the
(hearing) educators had an idea! Let's take the Sign Language what these
Deaf persist in using, put it in the host language grammatical structure,
make up signs for the words that there are no signs for, speak at the same
time as signing and then the Deaf will know what we are talking about!! 
Clever (D'oh)

So to put this in perspective: Lets take Norwegian spoken language, put it
in German grammar and this will help you to understand German better.  We
will only allow one Norwegian word for each German word, and only one German
word for each Norwegian word, and you will be so much better at both
languages.  To make it even clearer, we will speak a German word, then a
Norwegian word and so on!

That is still being used today and is called (in Australia:) Sign(ed)

Today, here in Townsville that is the going thought of the local schools....
 So over all these years the Deaf had speech therapy, and lip reading was
sadly the tool they used to try to understand......

This is the environment Stefan is in.  Probalby the true German Sign
Language is being mixed with the Sign German. I imagine he has a sign for
every equivalent of The (das des dem den, etc), but in the true German Sign
Language there was never a sign for "the" in the first place.  As every Deaf
student is (probably)undergoing speech therapy, the lip patterns are still
very important for the hearing educators, so the Deaf will know what word is
being said (sorry signed). 

As interpreters know very well, the variation of meaning of words in any
For example,we have a sign for "Thank you", but depending on the context it
can also mean "Appreciate." The word appreciate can also convey the thought
of understand.  "I appreciate the meeting is very important to you", would
not be signed with the sign "Thank you", but with the sign for "understand."
 As an interpreter we choose according to the context the appropriate sign.
Mouthing "appreciate" is absolute useless in this case 

In Auslan and also ASL, we do make mouth movements, but these are unrelated
to the spoken words equivalent of the sign.  We have a tight-lips mouth
movement, which convey intensity.  If we use this with the sign for "near"
then it meant "very near". we have a mouthing of the word "pah", which has
many different meanings depending on the signs it is being used.

So, if Germany still uses Sign German, is still in this oralistic movement,
if Stefan teaches children this oralistic way, then for him the mouth
movements are very important.  To educate the Deaf, it has very little value


-------Original Message-------
From: SignWriting List
Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 22:34:20
Subject: Mouthings- question for Stefan
Hi Stefan and all,

on your site , you have a diagram of mouthing
symbols used in Germany.

Some of the symbols are compoesed of a face/mouth symbol and a hand symbol
near the mouth.

If these are used to train German spoken language, I can well understand

But as I understand, German Sign Language uses mouthing as part of the
sign language itself, as does Norwegian Sign Language.
How do you write the mouthing when the hands are otherwise occupied???

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